The Age of Discretion


I grew up in the Age of Discretion.  Y’all know about the sixties – the Age of  Aquarius?  Well, this was the decade just before that, the fifties.  There was an anal-retentive Sunday school teacher — a Mitt look-alike — on every street corner.  Our popular music was trite, and most of us were well-behaved.  The president was Eisenhower.  Wasn’t that a time?  No, that was not a time.

The Pill wasn’t introduced until 1960.  Virgin births declined dramatically, and Everything Changed Forever.

This is a story about my presiding over the local library’s bookstore in the Current Era.  I do it every Saturday, and it’s fun because I know a lot about books and authors, so I can show off.  Also, having an enthusiasm for books in common with them, I’ve met some friends I treasure.

Recently a nice old guy I’d seen before showed up with his wife and another couple.  He and I had engaged in some playful badinage in earlier visits, and I judged that all four of them would be up for some fun.  I started out suggesting that they must be really old because they were older than I am.  We soon got into a bragging contest about who had been married the longest.  Well, both couples beat me; but I thought of a way to regain the advantage.  I said “Yeh, but we were having sex for five years before we were married.”

I figured I’d be a winner, since we had all grown up in the Age of Discretion, when things like that Were Not Done.  Maybe it was one of those cases where everyone’s doing something, but nobody’s talking about it.  Just a short moment passed before the couples were back in the competition, bragging about premarital adventures.  Well, the men were; but both wives were clearly thinking, “Shut up, you gormless old fool.”  I sensed that I had been the catalyst for a discussion the two couples had never found it convenient to have before.

Suddenly, the guy I knew said “Wait a minute!  How old did you say your wife was when you got married?”  Um.  The answer was nineteen; so five old white heads began doing the math, all at the same time.  I felt the mantle of a pervert settling rapidly on my shoulders.  So my winning the contest was a fleeting moment.  I had to give it up.  I said “OK, I lied about the sex.”

I thought it was funny, but not nearly as funny as they did.  I had somehow pulled  the thumb out of the dike that had held back an interesting secret.  I don’t entirely understand  it, but something bigger happened at the same time – something liberating, that simply left them feeling good.  I felt proud.

I’ll bet they hadn’t laughed so hard since the Age of Aquarius.

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